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Saudi Arabia: African Gangs Exploiting Children | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat- African gangs in Saudi Arabia are mutilating African children with the intention of exploiting them by forcing them to beg on the streets of the kingdom, a Saudi law enforcement source has revealed to Asharq al-Awsat.

This phenomenon exists more specifically in the western region during the Hajj season and the month of Ramadan. These gangs also run the illegal networks that import these children into Saudi Arabia.

Despite the hardships that the children endure during these trips and the physical pain they suffer after losing body parts, begging in Saudi still remains to be a dream and a golden opportunity that the human trafficking companies offer children fleeing from conflicts and civil wars. For these children, earning a living is their only concern  even if it means paying the price with a maimed, burnt or amputated body part.

According to sources, these child trafficking companies are operated by African gangsters that provide them with everything from passports to [flight] reservations, in addition to supplying special buses to receive the incoming children and take them to their assigned destinations. The children arrive with their disfigurements, which they suffer at the hands of these exploiters beforehand.

The official spokesman for the Mecca Police Force, Major Abdul Muhsin al Mayman, told Asharq Al-Awsat that officials have confirmed the presence of African gangs who deliberately maim children, pointing to the similarities in the deformations and the time frame in which they had been inflicted, in addition to the fact that a considerable number of children were living in close proximity of one another in certain residential areas. He added that all these signs indicated the presence of organized gangs operating in this trade.

A considerable number of beggars; 956 in total, were arrested in Mecca between 20 January and 24 September of this year, according to al Mayman. Nevertheless, up to this moment, the authorities have been unable to identify the culprits behind the child trafficking and have condemned the insistence of children to conceal names and their refusal to share any information that could lead to the arrest of these gangs. Many have been known to tear up their passports in order to hide their identities and prevent deportation back to their homeland where they would be compelled to join child militias in civil wars.

Former deputy chief of the Mecca Police Force, Major-General Ibrahim Basnawi stressed the importance of collaborative efforts between all the concerned authorities so as to put an end to this atrocious phenomenon. However, he affirmed that controlling such a phenomenon was feasible and affordable and could be achieved within the span of two weeks – provided the deportation and material costs were covered, in addition to resolving the cooperation between the concerned states in question.

He called for collaborative efforts between all concerned parties, including the Saudi Immigration Department, passport control, and the Ministry of Interior, as represented by public security, to join their efforts to banish this prevalent phenomenon.